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The events of the World War I significantly affected both people sent to the battlefield and those left on the home front as it ruined their lives and brought much pain to the broken families. The book Echoes of the War carries a compilation of plays including The Old Lady Shows Her Medals and A Well Remembered Voice. These two plays are, to a certain extent, fairy tales for adults in a country that is at war. The collection of stories found in Echoes of the War and written by J.M Barrie, together with the play The Enchanted Cottage by Arthur Pinero, tell a tale of families affected by the World War I.
In The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, a woman named Ms. Sternhagen plays the role of a charwoman, Mrs. Dowey, who in order to compete with stories told by friends regarding their loved ones at war, decides to invent a soldier and makes him her son. Ms. Dowey goes ahead to tell her friends that her “son” is a member of the Black Watch and even provides letters allegedly written by him. A Well Remembered Voice, on the other hand, deals with the major themes in conflicts for those in the home front. The Enchanted Cottage has three acts set in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The play is about a pilot Oliver Bradford, who sustains disfiguring wounds while at war.
There is no denying that the war affected people involved in the war, as well as those left on the home front. The latter had to experience loss and mourning to a great extent. In The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, Mrs. Dowey and her friends keep talking about the whereabouts of their sons and discuss the current situation. It is clear that all of them are not happy with the war (Barrie). Messages are delivered every day on the lives lost inthe course of the war. It is demonstrated in the same play where Mrs. Dowey receives a message that Kenneth is dead. Additionally, families left on the home front had to deal with the fact that their sons would leave their families behind without the guarantee of coming back alive after the war. Thousands of young boys and men were encouraged to enroll as soldiers. As the war raged on, and even after, women were left to take care of their families as their husbands and elder sons were either dead or still at war.
Remembrance was also something that people left on the home front had to deal with. While families were trying to overcome the loss of the loved ones, there was also the need to adjust to such loss so that the families affected could move on. In A Well Remembered Voice, a mother’s decision to talk to her dead son is demonstrated. This episode depicts the willingness of families that have lost their members in the war to remember what the voices of their loved ones once sounded like (Barrie). The theme of remembrance is clearly brought out in this play.
Women assumed different roles during the war with many of them taking up jobs in the factories. It happened because men were taken to Europe to fight for their countries and no men left to work in factories. As a result, women, who were used to doing household chores, now found themselves working in all manner of factories. The Old Lady Shows Her Medals opens with a Mrs. Dowey and her friends sitting, having a cup of tea, and talking about their sons at war (Barrie). This image was the typical example of a woman at the preliminary stages of the war. However, as the war continued to rage and Private Dowey has not returned home, Mrs. Dowey bravely puts away her sorrow and sets out to work. The role of women left on the home front changed as they had to adapt and assume manly duties.
Those sent to the war were also affected as many of them came back with serious injuries. Some of these traumas were disfiguring thereby causing a severe pain to soldiers affected. The Enchanted Cottage tells a tale of a soldier who returns home from the war. However, Oliver has sustained serious injuries and he is so ashamed of them that on returning home, he decides to run away from his beautiful fiancée and mother (Pinero 65). Oliver rents a cottage from Mrs. Minnett and it is here that he meets Laura. They both get to know each other and with time they learn that true beauty lies in a person’s soul, and not appearance. While the story may be fictitious, it is true that there are accounts where some soldiers on returning home would run away and leave their parents and wives alone. This situation consequently affected families as children grew up without their fathers, wives had to spend their life without the help of their husbands, and parents were devastated by the fact that they could do nothing to help their wounded children.
There were also the concerns of parents outliving their children. During World War 1, young men who had attained the age of 16 years were encouraged to join the Army and sent to war zones. As a result, thousands of young men died in the war and parents had to live with the thought that they outlived their young sons. To these parents, this fact was not natural as children were supposed to bury their parents and not vice versa. It is depicted in A Well-Remembered Voice, when Dick tells his father, Mr. Don, not to feel hurt when he dodges the good-bye business when he leaves (Barrie). It is emotionally disturbing as well as psychologically traumatic to parents.